There is an additional geographic centre of gravity in my life: Edinburgh.
Eldest Son (ES) and his partner moved to Edinburgh from our flat in London in the New Year. They have settled there and are due to have a baby there in November. Last weekend, following relaxation of coronavirus restrictions over the last few weeks in both England and Scotland, we got to visit them and to see the city.
Their flat is in the heart of New Town. This central area is the epitome of the town planning and developments that have given Edinburgh the moniker of ‘Athens of the North’. Like a few other residential areas of Edinburgh, it is grandly Georgian with broad, airy streets. It has well preserved, tall terraced buildings with colonnades and porticos redolent of Greek architecture, secluded communal gardens and, seemingly, a vista of a monument or an imposing public building at the end of every street.
In ES’s partner we had a host who has lived in or near Edinburgh almost all her life so we had an excellent guide to the subtle differences between the different parts of the City. The famous Princes Street has some great views of the castle and the Royal Mile is distinctive, but we preferred the adjacent, less crowded areas that were dominated by bustling, small independent cafes and shops rather than tired chains with their overblown price discount hoardings.
ES’s flat is on the third floor of their building and the stairs are going to be challenging during his partner’s late pregnancy and, then, when the baby arrives. So, as we walked around the city, we were considering the possible location of their next flat. However, Long-Suffering Wife (LSW) and I also found ourselves peeking at estate agents windows and thinking about our possible future move – for at least part of each year – to Edinburgh.
There are many steps to negotiate before any such move – not least some firm decisions from Middle and Youngest Son on where they are going to settle since we want to be close and accessible to them all.
We also need to come to terms with the colder and greyer weather in this ‘Athens of the North’. We were fortunate that the weather was dry and sunny but we also experienced a misty haar that came in from the North Sea every morning to fill and darken the imposing streets. That gave us a helpful taste of the climatic difference between Gloucestershire and East Scotland. We are lucky to have options like Edinburgh as a place to live to think about but the weather has to be a consideration.
We met ES’s partner’s parents while we were in Edinburgh and it was lovely to meet them at last. They gave us a sample of the warm local hospitality and excellent restaurant quality. Then on our final night in Edinburgh we went with ES and his partner to Timberyard which was one of the best restaurants we have ever been to.
It was a memorable and lovely city visit – all the better for the delayed gratification caused by coronavirus.
On the way up to Edinburgh we took a detour to visit my Mum and to have lunch with my Dad in Nottingham. Mum’s care home has, of course, been considerate but restrictive on visits until recently out of respect for the pandemic. Although my Dad has been visiting Mum increasingly frequently, this was the first time I had seen her for a year. Mum is frailer now following a bout of coronavirus but it was great and fulfilling to see them both.
After Nottingham, we stayed overnight in York in a very comfortable Scandinavian-influenced boutique hotel with a Viking name (Jorvik House) that LSW had sought out. We had the time and the sunny weather to take in the main central sites and to have a relaxing drink or two overlooking the river.
We also indulged in a stop off on our way back home from Edinburgh. The Tebay Services Hotel was very functionally comfortable and convenient. Happily, we had time to slip off the beaten path home down the M6 with a visit to Orton Fells near Appleby and the town itself. While walking by the river there, by very lucky chance, we followed the sound of a distant PA system and stumbled upon a very impressive harness horse race event. We got to it just in time to see the big race and came away from the town exhilarated by a new, vibrant, energy-filled experience.
LSW and I have been lucky to have escaped the worst disruptions that this blasted pandemic has thrown at us all. Nonetheless, travel to see friends and family has been curtailed and, now those restrictions are relaxing, we are planning more trips like that to Nottingham, York, Appleby and Edinburgh last weekend.
This week will be spent catching up with local village matters (including preparing for and manning of our local Climate Action Network stall tomorrow), personal administration and essential gardening. Then we are off again – this time to see friends in Suffolk and a very different ambience to the ‘Athens of the North’.